Friday, 5 September 2014

The Whole Cool Character Thing: Charlie

The kid who sits alone in the high school cafeteria, reading and trying not to be noticed. Bring back memories, yet?

Charlie is a wallflower. That's sort of the point of the book. Which references wallflowers in the title.

You'll probably be able to work out which it is.

(Hint: it also has the word "perks" in the title.)

But yeah, Charlie is the ultimate wallflower when we first meet him. He prefers to think rather than participate. He prefers to read and write in the corner rather than speak. He writes letters to someone he doesn't even know just so that he can tell someone the things that happen to him and bother him. He's the definition of an introvert (until awesome people come along and pick him up and become friends with him and bring him out of his shell.)

But the good thing about Charlie-and the kind of interesting thing, in my opinion-is that he isn't portrayed as the "everyman." The book's kind of cited as the ultimate "survive high school" thing-the book that "every high school kid should read". (Catcher in the Rye's the other one that's pretty prone to this.) But the thing is, that neither Charlie nor Holden Caulfield (they're vastly different) are the relatable outcast.

Sure, Charlie has social anxiety and is an outsider and doesn't always know the right things to say or do. But what Charlie has gone through, the majority of kids haven't gone through. (And that's a GOOD thing.)

But somehow, he's relatable, anyway.

And that might be one of the reasons I love Charlie so much. He's one of those anxious, shy, outcast characters that you can relate to but he's not one of those ones that feels carbon-copy, designed-in-a-machine for you to relate to. He's someone that feels authentically real, original-but you can still relate to him because those original, non-designed characters are the ones that are the most real.

And then there's the whole story that Charlie goes through. He makes friends. And he loses them. He starts going out with someone. And it doesn't work. And they break up. And he chooses the worst way possible to do it. And the girl he likes is going out with someone else, who treats her badly. But she doesn't see that.

It sounds like generic high-school drama. But seen through Charlie's eyes, it's not. It's different and it's a new world for him to see. And he's just trying to get through it. And for him, navigating it through his own mindset is complicated and difficult and interesting. And maybe, gradually, we learn that no drama's truly generic. No matter how boring and "typical" it can seem to outsiders, things matter to the people involved. And maybe there are no typical stories because every story and every person is different.

But more than that, Charlie's unique view on the world makes for some interesting ruminations on the people around him. He wonders why people choose the wrong people to date. He wonders why he and others let people treat them badly. He doesn't know why people who are these amazing, funny, awesome beings can let others make them feel like nothing.

We accept the love we think we deserve-Perks of Being A Wallflower

Charlie wants to show people they deserve more. But part of his story is learning that he deserves more. And learning that he can't just put other people first all the time. Because putting everyone else first all the time might be noble but it can also lead to you getting neglected. Or really awful people using you which is all kinds of evil and I do not like to think of it happening to Charlie and I'm just going to put a Stop sign up there.

There it is.

But Charlie wants there to be only good things for other people. In fact, one of his main problems isn't his own pain-it's other people's, his sister's, his friend's, his ex-girlfriend's-and the fact he can't stop seeing it, everything that will go wrong with their lives and everything that could go wrong in the world. And he can't stop seeing it and it makes him terrified.

But part of Charlie dealing with the world is learning that pain exists. But that along with pain, exists beauty. And even when things get forgotten, they can be remembered again. And that no matter how much he loves everyone, bad things are going to happen to them sometimes. But they can still be there when those things happen.

And gradually, he stops worrying about things being forgotten. Or things coming to an end, or that everything good will stop. Gradually, he comes to terms with everything that's happened so far and he holds onto what could happen. And that even when something ends, you can hang onto the memories.

And OK, here's the big quote.

 I had to get it in.

I guess in some ways, I can identify with Charlie. (It had to come back to me, because I'm self-obsessed and that's one of the perks.) I've just started blogging and this sweet and cool little blogging community has welcomed me in and been nice to me, even though I feel like the weird awkward little kid who's stamping her feet and demanding to be heard. And it's like all the cool people who follow and comment, on here and Tumblr and fanfictions and so forth, are like my own personal Sam and Patricks. And I guess we have the Internet today, and that helps with all of that, but Perks of Being A Wallflower is pre-Internet so it's lucky for Charlie that he has a Sam and Patrick within walking distance.

But my personal issues aside, Charlie's awesome. He keeps trying, even when it all seems to be going wrong. He keeps going, even when it gets difficult and he thinks he's messed it all up. And by the end-no spoilers-even though we don't know what happens to him, I think we know he'll be OK. Whatever happens, he'll be fine. And no matter what, there'll still be unexpectedly beautiful days.

So, you know. Stay infinite.


No comments:

Post a Comment